A FreshWater Watcher collects a sample from Laguna de Bay, Philippines. © Jay Ortiz


A new report by Earthwatch showcases the impacts citizen scientists have made to freshwater research around the world through the programme FreshWater Watch.

FreshWater Watch was the first citizen science initiative of its kind to research freshwater ecosystems at a global scale. From the urban metropolis of Shanghai to the deserts of the United Arab Emirates and the wetlands of India, the programme uncovered new insights into the key causes of water quality loss and ecosystem degradation both globally and locally, triggering important conservation actions.


Protecting crayfish and axolotl habitat in Mexico City

Xochimilco, to the south of Mexico City is home to a complex network of canals and chinampas, a traditional system of farming used since Aztec times. There, FreshWater Watchers have contributed to research exploring how this unique landscape affects the microhabitats of crayfish, as well as an unusual amphibian called an axolotl, a species found nowhere else on earth. Their efforts will help inform the restoration of this unique agricultural system and the creation of axolotl refuges to bolster their populations.


Understanding the sources of litter on Great Lakes Beaches

Meanwhile in Buffalo and Chicago, USA, FreshWater Watchers have investigated another pressing conservation issue: the pollution of waterways by anthropogenic litter. They assisted with the ‘Great Lakes Beaches’ project, an in-depth study exploring the abundance, distribution and impacts of litter around the Great Lakes. In addition to collecting important data, FreshWater Watchers removed an incredible 13,600 pieces of beach litter weighing almost 5,130 kilograms over the course of the project.

Many more examples of environmental and social impacts made over the past five years are featured in the new report.

Thanks to the help of over 8,000 HSBC staff, together collecting over 17,000 datapoints, FreshWater Watch has had significant research impacts:

  • 40 scientists from 30 international research institutions have led locally relevant projects.
  • 10 environmental NGOs, 10 rivers and wildlife trusts and 10 government agencies have been actively involved with the project.
  • The programme has supported the study of approximately 2,500 ecosystems across 36 cities and six continents.
  • More than 20 scientific papers have been published with the data collected.

The project achieved far more than originally envisioned, creating new insights and making real, meaningful change in the cities where research has taken place. In fact without the commitment of FreshWater Watchers around the world, it would have taken over 11 years for professional scientists to conduct the same amount of research.

The research team at Earthwatch, together with the network of the programme’s 40 leading freshwater scientists would like to express our sincere gratitude to HSBC’s citizen science leaders who participated. We look forward to working with you again in the near future. 

Read the full report here.

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